Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Flight of the Butterflies in 3D

The team behind Bugs! 3D focuses on the epic journey of monarch butterflies and the patient naturalists who for decades devoted their lives to the familiar yet little-understood insects.

Jan 3, 2013

-By Rex Roberts


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1369748-Flight_Butterflies_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Butterflies in 3D? Almost as good as T-Rex roaring from a giant screen, which was, of course, producer Jonathan Barker’s first big idea for IMAX theatres. Watching a rabble of butterflies virtually fill a six-story auditorium should be entertainment enough for adolescents not yet ruined by videogames, but Flight of the Butterflies in 3D has the added value of a good story. Naturalist Fred Urquhart and his wife, Norah, devoted their lives to tracking the beautiful flyers on their annual circuit through three or four generations—from Texas in the spring to Canada in the fall and back again to Mexico—a 40-year effort to discover the elusive insects’ winter roost high in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Writer and director Mike Slee (a protégé of David Attenborough who also helmed Bugs! 3D) dramatizes the Urquharts (Gordon Pinsent and Patricia Phillips) at work and play in sepia-like vignettes that intersperse the scientific bits, so we see the lepidopterists in the field trundling about with butterfly nets, and in their rustic cabin plotting a map with sightings by the “citizen scientists” who diligently tagged butterflies to verify their life cycles and migration routes. The recreations are hokey but wholesome, even endearing, considering the target audience: SK Films boasts that test screenings received rave reviews across all ages, but the film appears to be aimed at kids eight to twelve. At one point, we find two notable citizen scientists, Ken Brugger and his wife, Catalina (Shaun Benson and Stephanie Sigman), pausing in their quest to observe a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, a bit of local color that conveniently underscores the transnational scope of the enterprise, which has metamorphosed into MonarchWatch.org. But the film’s entomology is equally child-centric, with the monarchs, which cycle from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly several times during their annual circuit, referred to as grandmothers, mothers and daughters, according to their generation.

The macro (extreme close-up) photography is striking: Butterflies appear rather monstrous when seen flitting about in slo-mo stereography. In one sequence, MRI and CT scans depict the time-lapse transformation of a caterpillar inside a chrysalis, detailing the development of the butterfly’s proboscis, its wings and flight muscles, its compound eyes…more amazing than watching Jeff Goldblum turn into a fly. Slee and co-writer Wendy MacKeigan spend a good deal of the film explaining the importance of habitats, including practical advice about creating butterfly-friendly gardens in the suburbs, but they don’t get scary about the endangered planet. Flight of the Butterflies in 3D is instructive and celebratory, not didactic and scolding, a refreshing pause from the Chicken Little approach to nature documentaries. In fact, this short, easy-to-like and informative movie is refreshingly upbeat, as bright as its subject, and at just under 45 minutes, a perfect entertainment for restless youngsters.


Film Review: Flight of the Butterflies in 3D

The team behind Bugs! 3D focuses on the epic journey of monarch butterflies and the patient naturalists who for decades devoted their lives to the familiar yet little-understood insects.

Jan 3, 2013

-By Rex Roberts


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1369748-Flight_Butterflies_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Butterflies in 3D? Almost as good as T-Rex roaring from a giant screen, which was, of course, producer Jonathan Barker’s first big idea for IMAX theatres. Watching a rabble of butterflies virtually fill a six-story auditorium should be entertainment enough for adolescents not yet ruined by videogames, but Flight of the Butterflies in 3D has the added value of a good story. Naturalist Fred Urquhart and his wife, Norah, devoted their lives to tracking the beautiful flyers on their annual circuit through three or four generations—from Texas in the spring to Canada in the fall and back again to Mexico—a 40-year effort to discover the elusive insects’ winter roost high in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Writer and director Mike Slee (a protégé of David Attenborough who also helmed Bugs! 3D) dramatizes the Urquharts (Gordon Pinsent and Patricia Phillips) at work and play in sepia-like vignettes that intersperse the scientific bits, so we see the lepidopterists in the field trundling about with butterfly nets, and in their rustic cabin plotting a map with sightings by the “citizen scientists” who diligently tagged butterflies to verify their life cycles and migration routes. The recreations are hokey but wholesome, even endearing, considering the target audience: SK Films boasts that test screenings received rave reviews across all ages, but the film appears to be aimed at kids eight to twelve. At one point, we find two notable citizen scientists, Ken Brugger and his wife, Catalina (Shaun Benson and Stephanie Sigman), pausing in their quest to observe a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, a bit of local color that conveniently underscores the transnational scope of the enterprise, which has metamorphosed into MonarchWatch.org. But the film’s entomology is equally child-centric, with the monarchs, which cycle from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly several times during their annual circuit, referred to as grandmothers, mothers and daughters, according to their generation.

The macro (extreme close-up) photography is striking: Butterflies appear rather monstrous when seen flitting about in slo-mo stereography. In one sequence, MRI and CT scans depict the time-lapse transformation of a caterpillar inside a chrysalis, detailing the development of the butterfly’s proboscis, its wings and flight muscles, its compound eyes…more amazing than watching Jeff Goldblum turn into a fly. Slee and co-writer Wendy MacKeigan spend a good deal of the film explaining the importance of habitats, including practical advice about creating butterfly-friendly gardens in the suburbs, but they don’t get scary about the endangered planet. Flight of the Butterflies in 3D is instructive and celebratory, not didactic and scolding, a refreshing pause from the Chicken Little approach to nature documentaries. In fact, this short, easy-to-like and informative movie is refreshingly upbeat, as bright as its subject, and at just under 45 minutes, a perfect entertainment for restless youngsters.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Red Army
Film Review: Red Army

Non-hockey fans need not worry: This doc about Russia’s famed late-20th-century ice hockey team isn’t just for the converted. But filmgoers who don’t care a fig about Cold War-era tensions, culture clashes and the USSR’s erosion into the new Perestroika-embracing Russia can retire to the locker room, because these dynamics play big roles. More »

TheHumbling review
Film Review: The Humbling

Al Pacino’s superb performance as an aging, psychologically unraveling actor cannot save this pretentious and flat-footed film. More »

Mommy
Film Review: Mommy

Mom-obsessed Xavier Dolan triumphs with this startlingly original, compellingly watchable character study that is simultaneously hilarious, appalling and sad. More »

Manny
Film Review: Manny

Engaging look at legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao is best for hardcore fight fans. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Paddington
Film Review: Paddington

This feel-good, looks-great first-time big-screen adaptation of the beloved British children's stories about a stowaway Peruvian bear finding his, er, bearings in London is much more than just, oops, bearable. The handsome production greatly benefits from a top-notch cast of some of the U.K.’s finest actors and its beautiful blend of CGI-enriched live action and animated ursine star. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here